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Empowering Women In The Maritime Community

Is the tide finally turning on gender imbalance in the maritime industry?

At the most recent bunker training course run by Petrospot in Oxford, two thirds of the attendees were female.

In many other business situations this wouldn’t be anything unusual; however the balance of gender on the Petrospot course was quite remarkable for the shipping industry because at most 4 per cent of the maritime industry’s sea-based workforce is female, and in the Merchant Navy, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) estimates that women make up only 2 per cent of the world’s maritime workforce.

The important question to ask though is, does this attendance reflect the gender change in our industry that we’ve been waiting for?

It’s certainly timely since Kitack Lim, IMO Secretary-General announced that the theme at September’s 2019 World Maritime Day will be “Empowering Women in the Maritime Community”, and he will be talking at London International Shipping Week (LISW) also taking place in September.

I spoke to two industy leaders, Kimberly Westmoreland, Director for Global Fuel Procurement at Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd (RCCL) and Lindsay Malen-Habib, Client Services Manager at Resolve Marine Group exploring the theme of encouraging women in the maritime industry.

“Today I think it is increasingly unusual to not see a woman sitting at the table with me, in one capacity or another” said Kimberly. “Now, more than ever, women are breaking down stereotypes and truly making waves in male-dominated sectors. It’s encouraging to see a greater presence of females in the bunker industry – with seven females on my team, I’d like to think we are contributing to that wave.”

Kimberly and Lindsay are at pains to point out that working in the maritime sector is all about team work, an attractive option to many people. Kimberly also highlights the pleasure and benefit to the business gained from travelling round the world, something millennials entering the workplace are especially keen on:

“I love traveling, and there is tremendous value in traveling to the ports where we bunker; you can’t beat seeing the operation for yourself – where the ship will be fuelled, and how it all plays out. We bunker in 144 ports around the world and my team operates 57 vessels. We get to travel the world and experience first-hand how different countries operate.

“I like to visit our more strategic ports – to see what our operations look like, understand where the risks lie and to see how it all flows. Seeing things first hand gives you a much greater perspective. I’m able to have a different conversation than I would have on the phone, or over email; you gain better perspective, the networking is better, quality information gets shared and this helps our operations become more efficient.”

Likewise, Lindsay acknowledges that maritime is a male-dominated industry but she always brings the focus back to the people, the team and the work they do which is what will attract a new generation of women to our industry.

“Currently, we actually have more female directors than male directors at Resolve Marine, but the message I want to get out is that your gender or ethnicity doesn’t matter, whether you are a man or woman, or on what side of the industry you originate. We are all equals in the bigger task of trying to make accomplishments that impact the world.

“The most pleasure I get from my job is talking about the work we do and the people we employ. You can engage a salvage tug under contract, but if you don’t have the appropriate salvage masters, naval architects, technical engineers, marine firefighters, salvage divers, etc. in your employment who are loyal to your team, you have nothing. So, we are all about the people”.

This powerful determination and conviction are just what our industry needs to deliver a tangible outcome to the IMO’s World Maritime Day theme – empowering women in the maritime community.

Training and environmental protection, which matter so much to young people, are central to the work of Resolve Marine Group and RCCL. The more people like Lindsay or Kimberly who explain their work in the maritime sector, and the vital role of ports and their auxiliary services to our way of life, the more chance we have of celebrating a permanent change to the gender balance of our sea-going workforce.

Kitack Lim, Secretary-General of the International Maritime Organization (IMO), will be giving a keynote presentation on empowering women in the maritime community at the Flagship Conference at London International Shipping Week, on Thursday 12 September.
Source: Article written by Llewellyn Bankes-Hughes, MD of Petrospot, on behalf of Hellenic Shipping News Worldwide (www.hellenicshippingnews.com)

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